Singapore— Are the winds of change blowing over Singapore? Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke up about sexual orientation and Section 377A of the Penal Code, which deem homosexual acts between men illegal, at the Smart Nation Summit at Marina Bay Sands on June 26, Wednesday.
The Prime Minister fielded a question from the audience about inclusiveness, particularly for foreign workers and what he thought about Pink Dot, the country’s yearly pro LGBT+ rights demonstration, which is taking place this Saturday, June 29, at Hong Lim Park.
PM Lee says that he was not quite sure about Section 377A’s exact wording, but emphasized that everyone is welcome to work in the country.
About inclusiveness, we are open. You know our rules in Singapore, he says.
“whatever your sexuality orientation is, you’re welcome to come and work in Singapore. Some people have an issue with the 377A, which is our legislation on…
I’m not sure exactly what the clause says, but basically, it’s against homosexual acts. Which remains legislation and it will for some time.”
The Prime Minister also adds while Singaporean society is not as open as San Francisco, or as stringent as some nations in the Middle East, it stands on middle ground.
“But it has not inhibited people from living. It has not stopped Pink Dot from having a gathering every year. And it’s the way this society is. We’re not like San Francisco, neither are we like certain countries in the Middle East. It’s something in between. It’s the way our society is.”
For those unfamiliar with Section 377A, it says, “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.”
In 2007, PM Lee said this about the LGBTQ+ community. “We should not make it harder than it already is for them to grow up and to live in a society where they are different from most Singaporeans.
“[Homosexuals] include people who are responsible and valuable, highly respected contributing members of society. And I would add that among them are some of our friends, our relatives, our colleagues, our brothers, and sisters, or some of our children.”
Back then, the Prime Minister said that forcing the issue could end up being detrimental. “If you try and force the issue and settle the matter definitively, one way or the other, we are never going to reach an agreement within Singapore society.”
Last month, the nephew of PM Lee, Li Huanwu, grandson of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, married his boyfriend Heng Yirui in Cape Town, South Africa.
In South Africa, same-sex marriages were legalised more than a dozen of years ago. While Singapore remains subject to Section 377A of the Penal Code, a holdover from British colonial times, interestingly enough, in India last year, the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of their Penal Code unconstitutional.
The wedding of Messrs Li and Heng, which was attended by PM Lee’s younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, his wife, lawyer Lee Fern Suet, and their two other sons, received widespread support, at least among Singapore’s netizens.
This give rise to the question whether or not society as a whole is beginning to accept LGBTQ+ marriages, and if the country is ready for the repeal of Section 377A./ TISG